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To Finish Out #TransWeek, A Spotlight on Bennett’s Project & Support for Transgender Youth November 17, 2017

Since kicking off Bennett’s Project statewide one month ago, we’ve collected more than 250 letters of support for transgender youth from communities across Georgia.

These include letters from prominent community members, including elected officials and faith leaders, as well as letters from transgender youth themselves, parents of transgender children and allies working to make transgender people feel welcome in their communities.

Today, we’re wrapping up Transgender Awareness Week—a time dedicated to raising trans visibility and sharing trans stories—by sharing some of the letters of support we’ve received for transgender youth.

 

Stephe Koontz | Councilwoman-elect, Doraville

Last Tuesday, Stephe Koontz won her race for a seat on the Doraville City Council by just 6 votes. It was a historic victory. With that win, Stephe became the only openly transgender elected official in the entire state.

Now, she’s excited to get to work representing her community, including serving as a role model for young transgender people.

“I ran because I thought I could best represent the values we care about in my community. But I also wanted transgender youth to have a role model—to know that there is a future for them, and not one where they have to hide who they are.”

“I ran because I thought I could best represent the values we care about in my community,” she says. “But I also wanted transgender youth to have a role model—to know that there is a future for them, and not one where they have to hide who they are.”

 

Rev. Kim Sorrells | UCC & Saint Mark UMC, Atlanta

Kim Sorrells says being transgender and a person of faith are often presented as diametrically opposed. That, Kim says, simply is not true—and they are living proof.

At its core, Kim says, their faith is one that requires loving and working toward justice for all people, especially “the outcasts and the oppressed,” which far too frequently includes transgender youth.  

“I believe that my faith calls me to work for policies that protect students from bullying, and ensure them the right to be themselves in schools—to use their correct name, pronouns and the correct locker rooms or restrooms.”

As a pastor, Kim is calling on people of faith to “live into that teaching” by working to ensure that LGBTQ people have the rights and protections needed to simply live and thrive as everyone else does.

“I believe that my faith calls me to work for policies that protect students from bullying, and ensure them the right to be themselves in schools—to use their correct name, pronouns and the correct locker rooms or restrooms.”

 

Amanda Dewis | Mother of a Transgender Daughter

Amanda Dewis is a mother of three, including a 7-year-old daughter who is transgender. She says she makes it a point to tell each of her children—often—to never think that they are “anything less than perfect inside and out.”

She wants them to grow up in a world that sees their intellect and action as the test of their character, and her “heart breaks” for transgender youth who have been made to feel like they need to be someone or something different to fit in. That’s why she’s sending a note to all of Georgia’s transgender youth through Bennett’s Project.

“Beautiful and precious child, I am so proud of your courage and ability to do something many adults can’t even do: Be true to yourself! You are amazing, inspirational, and wonderfully made inside and out! Don’t ever forget how much God loves you exactly as you are.” —Amanda Dewis

Renitta Shannon | State Representative, District 84

Representative Shannon signed on to Bennett’s project after there was an attempt made in her hometown of Decatur to weaken school policies that protect transgender students from discrimination.

“Like Bennett, I’ve been disturbed by the untrue things said about transgender people,” she says. “I’m especially troubled by efforts to weaken policies that protect transgender youth in the place they should feel the most safe—in school.”

“Like Bennett, I’ve been disturbed by the untrue things said about transgender people. I’m especially troubled by efforts to weaken policies that protect transgender youth in the place they should feel the most safe—in school.”

Rep. Shannon says that in the end, the school board stood behind these protections because community members spoke out, submitting nearly 1,000 letters of support. As other communities face pushback on similar policies, we must all start speaking out for trans youth.

 

Rev. Harry Knox | Trustee, Lancaster Theological Seminary

Reverend Knox is a long-time leader at the intersection of faith and the movement for LGBTQ equality.

He has served as an advisor on faith-based matters for organizations and institutions ranging from the Human Rights Campaign to the White House Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Integrity USA, and organization dedicated to fostering greater inclusion of LGBTQ people in the Episcopal Church. He’s now the president and chief executive officer of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

“Dear fabulous trans young person: You are made in God’s marvelous, evermore revealing image. You are beautiful inside and out and you are loved at my house.”

For Transgender Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance, he has a clear, faith-based message for transgender youth everywhere:

“Dear fabulous trans young person: You are made in God’s marvelous, evermore revealing image. You are beautiful inside and out and you are loved at my house.”

 

Community Letters

Most of the submissions to Bennett’s Project have been from ordinary individuals who simply want to foster a welcoming, accepting atmosphere for transgender youth in their communities. Read a sampling of these letters below, and take them as inspiration for submitting your own open letter of support for trans youth through Bennett’s Project.

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No #LGBTQ person, including GA's Gerald Bostock, should fear being fired or denied a promotion simply because of who they are or who they love — and #SCOTUS has the chance to affirm existing federal employment nondiscrimination protections this term. forbes.com/sites/tomspigg…

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